A young giraffe lasted only seven weeks at The Exotic Resort Zoo in Johnson City, Texas, before dying.
The Exotic Resort Zoo is owned by Dennis and Marilyn Bacque. The facility offers a drive-thru safari, petting zoo, guided safari tours and on-site cabin rentals.
On Dec. 12, 2021, The Exotic Resort Zoo announced they had acquired JJ, a 14-month-old male reticulated giraffe.
Over the next seven weeks the facility posted several updates about JJ, including that they were selling lettuce for zoo guests to feed to him and the proceeds from the sale of the lettuce would be used to purchase a female giraffe.
On Jan. 4, 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited The Exotic Resort Zoo with a Direct violation and a Critical violation. The USDA found that just a few days earlier two dogs had entered the facility’s petting zoo and killed one goat and seven sheep.
The inspector found one sheep that was believed to have been attacked by the dogs that was limping and appeared to have a swollen leg. The Exotic Resort Zoo had not recognized that the sheep was limping and had not provided veterinary care to the animal, according to the USDA inspection report.
On Feb. 2, The Exotic Resort Zoo asked for prayers that the animals at their roadside zoo would be alright during an upcoming cold snap.
“If any of our fellow ranchers or zoo-ers have any tricks to help fight this weather leave them below,” The Exotic Resort Zoo said in their social media post.
On Feb. 5, 2022, The Exotic Resort Zoo announced that JJ the giraffe had died.
“It was concluded that JJ had a plethora of underlying conditions and this cold snap could have been the final stressor,” The Exotic Resort Zoo said in a social media post. “We had saved and hoped and prayed for a giraffe for over 20 years and to lose him is completely and utterly devastating.”
The Exotic Resort Zoo said JJ was kept in a barn that was heated to 60 degrees. A USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) tech note indicates that giraffes should be kept in a barn that is heated to 65 degrees, at minimum.
"There have been many giraffe deaths caused in part or entirely by cold weather conditions," APHIS noted in their report.
Read The Exotic Resort Zoo's full statement on the death of JJ the giraffe below:
We strive to be transparent with all of you when it comes to our business and our animals; But, this is a post we never anticipated having to make. Fair warning – it’s nothing good.
Upon arriving to the park this morning, our team found that our beloved JJ was no longer with us. We called our vet in immediately to perform an on-site autopsy, and it was concluded that JJ had a plethora of underlying conditions and this cold snap could have been the final stressor. He was housed in a private barn that falls no lower than 60 degrees, with the help of two heaters and lots of bedding. Apparently, that was not enough comfort for him given the other conditions that he was silently fighting.
The issues that the vet discovered are the kind of things we’d have never known had we not performed the autopsy. Things that are not obvious from the outside and were completely out of our control. However, we can’t help but feel helpless, guilty and completely heartbroken.
If our love could keep our animals alive, they’d all live FOREVER. In the animal industry, you see losses; But, nothing prepares you for the loss of such a majestic and beautiful animal. The circle of life truly is a cruel one.
No one feels this particular loss heavier than our team, and we ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we mourn. We had saved and hoped and prayed for a giraffe for over 20 years and to lose him is completely and utterly devastating. That’s the only word we can use to describe the pain.
We will be turning off the comments to this post so that our team can have the space they need to mourn without any additional outside stressors. We sincerely appreciate all of your love and support. If you have any questions, you’re welcome to email us at any time.
January 2022 USDA Violation report: